Neil White's memoir is called In The Sanctuary Of Outcasts. It was published in hardcover last year, and it's just been released in paperback.
I've interviewed many authors on this show, but I've rarely had a chance to speak to someone with a story as compelling as White's. He's a writer, but he's an ex-con. His story begins in prison.
From his Web site:
Neil White, a journalist and magazine publisher, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. But it was no ordinary prison. The isolated, beautiful colony in Carville, Louisiana was also home to the last people in the continental United States disfigured by leprosy . . .
Hidden away for decades, this small circle of outcasts forged a tenacious, clandestine community, a fortress to repel the cruelty of the outside world. It is here, in a place rich with history, where the Mississippi River briefly runs north, amidst an unlikely mix of leprosy patients, nuns, and criminals, that Neilâs strange and compelling journey begins. He finds a new best friend in Ella Bounds, an eighty-year-old, African-American, double-amputee who had contracted leprosy as a child. She and the other secret people, along with a wacky troop of inmates, help Neil re-discover the value of simplicity, friendship and gratitude.
Funny and poignant, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is an uplifting memoir that reminds us all what matters most.